New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HERNANDEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-028-005, Claim No. 102462


An inmate is awarded the sum of $470 in a bailment claim.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
BY: Geoffrey B. Rossi, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 2, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

At trial of this action, Claimant Andrew Hernandez testified that at approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 14, 1999, he was escorted from the recreation yard of Elmira Correctional Facility to the facility’s Special Housing Unit (hereinafter “SHU”). Although he asked to return to his cell in order to pack up his property, his request was denied and he was told that the correction officers would pack and transport his property for him. Four days later, on July 18, he was allowed to look at his property, only briefly, while he was handcuffed. He was nevertheless able to observe that a number of personal items were missing and that others were damaged. On the I-64 form that was completed on July 18 (Exhibit A, p 17), Claimant wrote “missing property” under his signature. On August 4, 1999, Claimant’s property was again packed outside of his presence (id. p 18), in preparation for his transfer to Upstate Correctional Facility. On August 9, 1999, Claimant was allowed to see his property again and discovered that some additional items were missing.
Claimant’s first institutional claim, submitted on August 4, 1999, sought compensation in the amount of $625.50. This claim was denied, he said, because he had no receipts at that time. A second claim, dated October 6, 1999, totaled $1,387.54 and included the additional items he found to be missing upon arrival at Upstate Correctional Facility. The claim was granted with respect to five items – a Panasonic trimmer, a body wrap, T-shirts, sneakers and boots – which correction officials valued at $66.00 (Exhibit A, p 10). Claimant declined to accept that amount and subsequently instituted this action.
The missing items for which he is seeking reimbursement in this action are listed in his Claim (Exhibit 1). For each item, Claimant has provided the original cost and the amount that he is asking. At trial, he stated that this latter amount was his estimate of the fair market value at the time of loss.
A bailment exists when property is delivered from one person (the bailor) to another (the bailee) for a particular purpose under the express or implied contract that it will be redelivered to the person delivering it or otherwise dealt with according to his directions (9 NY Jur 2d, Bailments and Chattel Leases, § 1). If the bailor establishes that he or she owned the property, gave possession of the property to the bailee, and that the property was not returned or, where a demand is required, the bailee fails to return it upon demand, then the bailor has established a prima facie case based on the presumption of negligence (id. § 117). The bailee must then rebut that presumption, if possible, by showing that the loss was due to circumstances not within his control or that it was damaged without his fault (id.).
Claimant appeared to be credible, and his claim for damages was both detailed and, for the most part, reasonable. As noted above, in response to his institutional grievance, correction officials had acknowledged that at least five of the items were missing, and nothing was presented to refute his testimony that the other items were also lost. The State failed to present evidence of possible nonnegligent reasons for the losses. In support of the valuation that he placed on certain items and as proof that he had once possessed the items, Claimant presented receipts and permission slips (Exhibit 2).
The Court finds that Defendant is liable for the loss of Claimant’s property and makes an award of $470.00, with appropriate interest from August 9, 1999. This award results from the following adjustments to the list and valuation of property contained in the claim. No award is made for the 50 or more photographs,
several amounts that are designated as “shipping and handling,” food items as there is no way to determine how much of the lost food would have been perishable and thus lost to him because of confinement in SHU, and an item designated “commissary receipts.” Because, in the Court’s view, Claimant’s reduction for used items was too little, the amount of award for the remaining items was arrived at by reducing the actual cost by one-third, except for those items that evidence indicated were new and unused.
To the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).
Let judgment be entered accordingly.

March 2, 2007
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1].[T]he law does not recognize or make allowance for a purely sentimental value which the property may have” (Goor v Navilio, 177 Misc 970 [NY Mun Ct 1941]; Miceli v State of New York, 179 Misc 2d 424 [Ct Cl 1998] [award of $475.00 for albums and photographs for which Claimant had sought $4,500.00]; Watson v State of New York, UID #2006-030-022, Claim No. 108382, Sept. 21, 2006, Scuccimarra, J.; Benton v State of New York, Ct Cl, July 8, 1999, Claim No. 94337, Collins, J.).